Designed by: Keith Matejka
Playtime: 1 hour – 1 and 1/2 hours
Roll Player is a game that I’ve been wanting to discuss for some time now. It’s one of the very few board games I enjoy playing solo, it’s got a fantastic theme that is a love letter to the hobby, and it provides a game that allows you to manipulate luck to create a strategy. Unfortunately, being the Budget Board Gamer has put me in the awkward place of wanting to recommend a $60 game to people who may not have the cash to earnestly afford it.
Well, no longer shall I remain silent! For not only is Roll Player a fantastic game you need to play at some point in your life, but its expansion, Monsters and Minions, was just recently posted on Kickstarter and prepared to add so much more to an already robust game.
So without further ado, welcome to Breaking the Bank, a series of articles dedicated to introducing gamers to board games that may be above that $35 MSRP range I usually aim for but is worth the extra cash, even if it means passing on a few smaller games in the meantime.
For those of you unfamiliar, Roll Player is a game in which players are working through the process of character creation before a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, competing to create the character with the highest total of Reputation, aka victory points. Reputation is accumulated through six unique avenues:
- Attribute Goals are values players are tasked with hitting within each of their character’s six stats. While the values you are tasked to reach and how many points each stat provides differ based on the class you play as, the total points provided by reaching all Attribute Goals is always 12 Reputation.
- Dice that you place on your stats sheet that match the color associated with your class with will net you an additional one Reputation per die. While gold dice don’t add Reputation, they do provide two gold when placed.
- Depending on what Alignment Card you are dealt each game, players can earn up to three Reputation depending on where your token is at the end of the game. Alignment is used for other things throughout the game, however, so players can also potentially earn no Reputation or even negative points.
- Depending on what Backstory Card a player is dealt, players can accumulate up to six Reputation based on if you can place dice with specific colors in certain spots on your character sheet.
- Players can purchase sets of Armor Cards that can net you large amounts of points based on how many you manage to obtain. You can also earn an additional point if the set you collect is associated with your class.
- Lastly, Trait Cards obtained can provide alternative ways of earning points depending on what you do or don’t accomplish over the course of the game.
Now, how do you obtain dice and cards in order to earn that Reputation? After the start game set-up, whoever is first player will draw dice from a bag for the number of players plus one. After rolling them, the dice are placed on Initiative Cards from lowest value to highest value. If there are any ties, the first player chooses what order they go in. Then, each player selects a die and puts it on their character sheet. Besides the color and value of the dice, it also matters where you place dice because each stat provides a unique ability that can be used when a die is added to that track:
- Strength allows you to flip any die placed to the opposite side it was sitting on.
- Dexterity allows you to swap the positions of two dice on the character sheet.
- Constitution allows you to adjust the value of one placed die by +1 or -1.
- Intelligence allows you to reroll one placed die and keep either the new result or the previous value.
- Wisdom allows you to adjust where your Alignment token is by one space up, down, left, or right.
- Charisma gives you a token for a one-gold discount that must be used by the end of that turn.
After players have placed their dice and used the associated abilities if they choose to, they may then go to the Market. The order players go to the Market is determined by the Initiative Card they took their die from. Players may either purchase one of the cards available or discard one for two gold. After everyone goes to the Market, all remaining cards are discarded and refreshed.
There are a few different types of cards that can be obtained in this way:
- Armor Cards, as mentioned above, provide points for sets collected.
- Trait Cards, as mentioned above, provide alternative ways to earning Reputation. It’s also worth noting that Trait Cards may alter a player’s alignment, depending on the position of their Alignment token.
- Skill Cards allow players to take special actions during their turn, potentially adjusting the values of dice, the order in which actions are taken, or how certain cards are obtained. In order to use a Skill, players must pay by moving their Alignment one space in the designated direction. Used Skills are tapped, and one can be untapped at the end of each turn.
- Lastly, Weapons provide passive buffs that allow players to earn gold, pay less, or adjust values when taking certain actions. Each weapon has a hand value assigned to it, and characters can only hold up to two hands worth of weapons.
After everyone’s character sheets are filled, Reputation is added up and whoever has the most wins! Games will generally last from an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the amount of time it takes players to take their turns.
For those familiar with my Budget Board Gamer show, components are a big factor in how I respond to a game. Worry not, for Roll Player has some pretty great components in the box. The dice are chunky and are easy to read and look colorful when collected on each player’s sheet. The cards are of nice quality and don’t need to be sleeved, but can be to easily distinguish between the two stages of cards that build the Market deck. The gold coins and colored tokens do their job well enough as well, but the stand-out components that can be found are the character sheets, sprawling pieces of cardboard that have slots to place your dice and a variety of your cards, and clearly translates important information, such as the trait abilities and the various ways of earning points. The art of the cards and character sheets look fantastic and make the game that much more exciting to play, and each character sheet provides art for either gender with no difference between the two. Unfortunately, the insert isn’t anything fantastic, so I removed it from my copy some time ago. Also, the dice bag provided has been falling apart for some time now and may need to be replaced at some point in the near future.
Regardless, the gameplay itself is marvelous, with each game offering an entirely unique puzzle depending on what race, class, Backstory, and Alignment you end up with, not to mention how the dice and cards come out. Now, that might sound a little random, but this game revels in the fact that it takes random results and allows players to manipulate the results in smart and strategic ways. And there’s some tense decision making in regards to what dice to take, where it put it, how it will affect your Initiative level, and if you really need a card in the Market enough that you might sacrifice a good die in order to get first dibs. The design of the game is clever and there’s a huge amount of replayability due to the various combinations players can have at the start of each game and the various cards players can obtain that will completely alter how you’ll strategize and what goals you’ll be aiming to achieve.
The solo game is also a blast to play. Yes, it’s a high-score oriented game, but due to the nature of the puzzle, it’s still a lot of fun to see what crazy character you end up creating. Depending on what dice you take, a gold die that’s set aside at the start of the game will be rolled, causing certain cards to be discarded permanently.
To be fair, the game isn’t perfect. Some of the traits are a lot more reasonable and obtainable with less risk than others, making certain traits not worth getting unless you have the flexibility to aim for them. Certain Attribute Goals can be impossible to hit if paired up with a race that has a negative modifier for that stat. And there can be a feeling of analysis paralysis if you’re new to the game, with a lot of short-term and long-term decisions and choices to constantly consider.
Despite that, this is one of the best games I’ve had the privilege to own in some time, with so many stand-out features that it’s hard to compare the game to anything else. Roll Player is a strategic, smart, and colorful game that will appeal to even those who haven’t played an RPG before as long as you’re looking for a deep yet light-hearted experience.
Next week, we’ll be taking a look at the expansion, Monsters and Minions, having had the chance to playtest it for the last month or so. Both the base game and the expansion are currently on Kickstarter, so if you have any interest in the game I encourage you to check it out.
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